What is the best lectin-free protein powder?
What are lectins?
Lectins are proteins that bind to carbohydrates. They are found in all plants, but raw legumes like beans, peas, and peanuts and whole grains like wheat contain the highest amounts.
Are lectins bad?
Lectins have received a lot of bad press in recent years with popular media outlets citing them as a leading cause of obesity, chronic inflammation, and autoimmune disease. Although there may be some truth to these claims, there is very limited research into the long-term health effects of lectin consumption in humans. What we do know about lectins mostly has to do with digestion.
In nature, lectins protect plants against external pathogens such as fungi and other organisms. The same characteristics that lectins use to defend plants also make them hard to digest. They are stable in acidic environments (i.e. the stomach), and resist being broken down in the gut. It follows that when consumed, lectins in their active state can cause uncomfortable side effects. For instance, eating just a small amount of raw kidney beans can cause bloating, diarrhea, gas nausea, stomach pain, and even vomiting. This is why most legumes are soaked and cooked before eating. Soaking and cooking inactivates lectins, which are water-soluble and typically found on the outside of the plant.
It is important to note that there are different types of lectins, and that different people react to lectins differently. People with digestive diseases like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for example may be more likely to experience symptoms after eating lectins. If you have gut issues or a sensitive stomach, you may therefore want to consider reducing your consumption of lectin-rich foods. That said, in many large population studies, foods high in lectins like legumes, whole grains, and nuts are associated with weight loss and a decreased risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Keeping these foods in your diet is thus probably a good idea.
Does protein powder contain lectins?
Most protein supplements do not contain many lectins. That said, to play it safe, I recommend avoiding pea and soy proteins, as peas and soybeans are lectin-rich legumes. Some people will tell you that you have to be careful with animal proteins like whey and eggs because many cows and chickens are fed grains and legumes, but this is not true. There may be trace amounts of lectins in animal products, but they are so small that they are nothing to worry about. To be honest, lectins are not really something that you should be concerned about when buying protein powder; there are plenty of other ingredients that are far worse.
What to look for when buying protein supplements.
There are two types of protein shakes: ready-to-drink (store-bought) protein shakes, and protein shakes made with protein powder. In order to make a lectin-free protein shake with protein powder, you have to mix the powder with milk or water. This requires a blender or a shaker bottle, and a little extra time and effort. Some people prefer ready-to-drink protein shakes because they are more convenient, but if they knew what they were drinking, they would probably vomit.
Ready-to-drink protein shakes are full of emulsifiers, stabilizers, and thickeners. Ingredients like these improve characteristics like shelf stability, but are hard to digest and can cause uncomfortable side effects (more about this soon). This is why I recommend that you make your own lectin-free protein shakes with protein powder. That said, not all protein powders are created equal, and many contain the same additives found in ready-to-drink protein shakes! Keep reading to learn why you should avoid food additives.
Avoid food additives.
Most protein powders are full of food additives. Although not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, additives can add up quickly (especially if you drink a protein shake every day) and cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. This is because food additives are, generally speaking, hard to digest. They sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating and stomach pain. Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon) and can lead to constipation.
In the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine, which can result in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems, widespread inflammation, and permanent damage to the gut microbiome. Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are also poorly absorbed by the gut (meaning they feed those hungry gut bacteria) and cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestine. Now you finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!
Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein powder:
acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol
When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to look out for when buying lectin-free protein powder, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.
egg whites, coconut, cocoa, monk fruit
Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain.
*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.
Dairy-based proteins like whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, are known to cause digestive issues, especially for people with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Over one in three Americans are lactose intolerant, and the prevalence of IBS is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent in the United States. It follows that you may be lactose intolerant or have IBS and not even know it. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood condition, and it is unclear why dairy triggers symptoms. Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is clearly understood. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. As you just learned, partially digested food feeds the bacteria in your gut, which produce gas.
Avoid protein concentrates and isolates.
Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder is hard. Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder made with real foods is next to impossible. Why? Most protein powders are made with protein concentrates and isolates*, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein” and “whey protein” as opposed to “peas” and “whey.” I will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming protein powder. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to isolate (separate) the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food. The problem with ingredients that look nothing like real food is that they are hard to digest. (Your gut always prefers the real thing, not some heavily-processed imitation.)
Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we use egg whites. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming protein powder. Minimally-processed ingredients like this are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates.
Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for your gut. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, naturally alkaline, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein.
“I just finished my first bag and ordered 2 more! I Iove this stuff! I have IBS and every protein powder hurts my stomach…except drink wholesome!”
Why drink wholesome?
Our egg white protein powders are lectin-free, additive-free, dairy-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates. They are perfect for people with gut issues and sensitive stomachs, as well as for people just looking to boost their protein intake without the processing and added junk. Disclaimer: Our peanut butter protein powder is made with peanuts, and therefore contains lectins.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.